RP wins arbitration case in Singapore

Clears Terminal 3 ownership dispute

July 31, 2010

The Republic of the Philippines won the arbitration case filed by Philippine International Air Terminals Co.(Piatco) in Singapore-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) for payment of its expenses incurred in the construction of NAIA airport's Terminal 3.

The ICC decision is final and executory and should paved the way for the full operation and grant of legal right by the Philippine government to airport terminal concessionaires. Three foreign airlines are currently building their business lounges at the international wing of Terminal 3.

The Philippine government was represented in Singapore by U.S. based arbitration lawyer Andrea J. Menaker of White& Chase LLP based in Washington, with retired Supreme Court Justice Florentino Feliciano and Supreme Court nominee Ma. Lourdes Sereno.

The government saved almost $1.1 billion claimed by PIATCO and its foreign partner Fraport AG,of Germany following its victory in its arbitration case in Singapore. Fraport operates Frankfurt airport and is partially owned by the Frankfurt City government.

The dismissal follows the decision in a similar case filed by Fraport with the Washington-based International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

In 1997 and 1998, the government of the Philippines awarded Philippine International Air Terminals Co, Inc (PIATCO) the right to build and operate an airport terminal by way of several concession contracts. PIATCO finished construction and declared that the terminal was ready for handover in November 2002. However, in January 2003, the Philippine government argued that the concession agreements were null and void. PIATCO and Fraport commenced an ICC arbitration.

Fraport filed a petition for arbitration and sued for $425 million in damages at ICSID saying that the Philippines has expropriated the investments of Fraport in NAIA-3 in alleged violation of the Philippines-Germany Bilateral Investment Treaty forged on April 17, 1997.

ICSID dismissed Fraport claim of compensation in 2007 against the Philippine government for violation of its domestic laws.

At the ICC in Singapore, Piatco filed a $560-million damage suit against the government in 2004 after President Arroyo voided the Piatco contract which decision was upheld later by the Philippine Supreme Court.

The ICC decided in August 23, 2006 that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GOP) should cease occupation and give up possession of NAIA Terminal 3 pending settlement of dispute. The government offered payment of proffered compensation for its right to stay as the tribunal determine PIATCO's claim.

Meanwhile, the government filed two counter-suits against the claim, each asking for $900 million, against Germany’s Fraport AG before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington DC, and against Piatco before the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Singapore. Fraport owns 30 percent of Piatco.

Two airlines currently operates at NAIA's terminal 3, namely Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines Express. Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and undisclosed Middle East Airline are reported to use Terminal 3 before the end of the year, while other foreign airlines are expected to sign the occupancy contract following the Singapore decision.

President Benigno Aquino III said the government is expecting to fully operate terminal 3 by December with those foreign carriers on its roof.

PAL flights grounded after Pilots left without notice

Why declare redundancy in the first place?

July 31, 2010

At least a dozen pilots walked out from office this week and left the company without notice grounding 11 flights out of Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport Saturday.

PAL spokesman Jonathan Gesmundo said the problem came as a surprise to them as some of their pilots have applied for work in other airlines without the courtesy of informing management.

"In the past few days, pilots had not been reporting for duty. This has caused problems for us," Gesmundo said in a radio interview.

He said the airline was adjusting its schedule and will probably bring in bigger aircraft to accommodate the stranded passengers.

Philippine Airlines had to cancel at least five flights, one bound for Hong Kong, the others to domestic destinations in Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod and Iloilo after several of its Airbus A320 abandoned the company for jobs abroad.

In a statement on Saturday, PAL apologized to its passengers inconvenienced by the disruption of several flights schedules of their Airbus A320 airplanes.

"The indiscriminate resignation of PAL's A320 pilots for flying jobs abroad whose salaries PAL is unable to match, is in violation of their contracts with PAL as well pertinent government regulations that require resigning pilots to give PAL six months prior notice to be able to train their replacements," the statement read.

The company said it will file appropriate charges soon against pilots who chose not to report for work immediately after submitting their resignation letters. The indebted flag carrier has said it would lay off some of its 8,000-strong work force because of financial losses in the third straight year.

But to the PAL pilots who still works with the company, nothing is surprising after all. In fact, its a carefully crafted scheme with the objective of screwing the pilots benefit more.

An ALPAP spokesman who does not want to be identified for fear of reprisals, considering he still works with PAL however said that the resigned pilots themselves were declared reduntant by the Company earlier this year prompting them to seek employment elsewhere, and blamed the airline itself for the mess the management themselves created.

"They were declared redundant by PAL. What do you expect? Wait for the axe to fall onto your head?" says the spokeman.

"They were offered work assignments at Air Philippines but with different terms so they declined. The problem there is that they won't be having the same benefits provided by PAL so they decided to apply outside the country instead." the spokesman said.

"Of course we love the company. But who would fight for it when your back is pushed against the wall? Who would want to work in a company where your security of tenure is not guaranteed? At the end of the day, you still think about the future of your family." the spokesman adds.

Video Courtesy of GMANews.TV

The disaster of MRT 3

And why the Conceived Clark railway will fail.

July 30, 2010

Make no mistake about it. MRT is a well-conceived concept that went wrong because of politics. And this is the same reason why the conceived Clark railway connecting Clark International Airport to Manila proposed by Pangilinan's Metro Pacific Group and Company WILL always fail.

The same reason why the South Luzon Tollway Corporation, a joint venture between PNCC and Malaysian Investor MTD Capital, is aghast and disgusted how the government ignores the contracted rate of return to their investments.

and yet we are telling foreign investors to invest in our land. It's quite a contradiction in the real world so to speak.

Going back to the MRT case, which is the train you see at EDSA, it was intended by the project that its fare should start at 40 pesos.

While the rest of the transport industry periodically raise their fares as a function of rising costs and inflation, MRT’s fare went the reverse in its 10 year long history, sliding down to P12.50 for the same distance you pay for buses at EDSA.

At inflation, the fare of the MRT should be pegged at P60 pesos in 2009 according to the Department of Finance. The recommendation was ignored by the Arroyo government. Instead, the subsidy of the government for the luxury of few people went up to P5.5 billion as its obligations to its creditors every year since it started operating.

The twist of the story is the Arroyo government ordered two of its profitable banking institution, Land Bank and DBP, to buy the interest of its creditors in 2009 so that according to them the financial hemorrhage would stop, so they say, but in reality just bought time to delay its losing trend, at least until after the Arroyo's government end. What the Bank loses, the Filipino taxpayer pays. Just like what President Aquino said in his first SONA. We have to pay for their excesses.

The total project cost was $679 million which ballooned to $720 million. The Banks of the government assumed the $380 million of the foreign loan which should have went to agricultural related investments and small and medium enterprises, which is exactly the reason of the bank's existence, which in turn could have created at least 2 million jobs in the countryside according to the NSO.

The project is really so bad, or shall we say the fare that is, considering that its estimated yearly income generates only $47.4 million while its yearly expense is placed at $164.9 million as of 2009. Do the math please.

That means the government is paying subsidies amounting to $117.5 million for 500,000 Filipino people riding the MRT everyday as against the 90 million of us who never used it.

In simple mathematics, every P15 you pay for the line’s entire North Ave. to Taft Ave. leg cost the government P45 which all of us share to pay even if we don't or never cared to ride the MRT.

If the trend continues until 2025,the year when the project becomes government-owned, the total subsidies would total $1.24 billion, excluding the $200 million to double MRT capacity. But according to Aquino government's DBP, the claim against the government was at least $2.5 billion as against former figure made by Arroyo government. Tricky, yet it still spells a billion U.S. dollars.

The amount is more than enough to completely develop Clark International Airport with 40 million passengers capacity per year. And the money will still has room for the $300 million Clark-NAIA rail link provision, which according to Pangilinan will cost them only $150 million to build.

In London, the Transport for London charges £4.50 (P350) for an hour and half ride from Heathrow to Central London. Heathrow express train charges £16.50 (P1,155) for 15 minutes ride to Central London. But would a P200 fare be just for an hour and half ride from Clark to Manila as the proponent envisioned?

If the toll collection from SLEX or the fare collection of LRT/MRT is any indication of reality, then the future of Clark International Airport is bleak, investment wise.

Think about it!

DOLE meets PAL union leaders over layoffs

July 28, 2010

By Aura Marie P. Dagcutan

THE PHILIPPINE Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA) meet with officials of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) yesterday to discuss the latter’s June 15 decision allowing the Lucio C. Tan-led airline to proceed with an outsourcing scheme that will lay off ground staff.

“We will offer them options to settle the issue. They can choose whether to have an out-of-court settlement or proceed with the case.

But we assure them that whatever the decision is, both parties will benefit from it,” Rosalinda D. Baldoz, DoLE secretary, said in a telephone interview yesterday. The meeting was scheduled at 4 p.m.

DoLE’s June 15 decision, penned by then acting Labor Secretary Romeo Lagman, favored the airline management’s plan to outsource three non-core operations. Outsourcing call center, catering, and ground services will displace more than 2,600 workers and is estimated to yield savings of P1 billion to P1.5 billion for the distressed flag carrier.

The airline plans to pay around P2 billion in benefits to retrenched employees, who will get separation pay equivalent to one month’s salary for every year of service.

But Ms. Baldoz reiterated that the June 15 decision is not yet final.

“There are still other legal options because the decision is not yet executory. The meeting with PALEA will help us to understand the story,” she said.

Ms. Baldoz’s predecessor, Marianito D. Roque, assumed jurisdiction over PAL in April to prevent a strike following the airline’s announcement of the outsourcing plan.

PALEA President Gerardo F. Rivera said his group would not seek an out-of-court settlement.

“We are against to the outsourcing scheme. We have already filed for the reversal of the June 15 decision last June 28 and submitted a reply last July 19 after the PAL management filed an opposition to our motion,” he said.

“We want the Labor department to have a clear decision on the issue.

We want the PAL management to stop its plans of outsourcing,” he added.

PAL officials could not be reached for comment.

In a statement last Saturday, PAL said it had narrowed losses for its fiscal year that ended March, but said there was still weak demand for international flights.

The flag carrier reported $14.3 million in total comprehensive losses, narrower than the $297.8 million in losses recorded in the previous fiscal year.

PAL said capacity cuts by global airlines did not match the decline in passenger traffic, exerting pressure on yields. Because PAL lowered fares, revenues went down to $1.36 billion from $1.6 billion the previous year.

“Through prudent handling of resources, PAL’s total expenses dropped to $511.4 million, less than the previous year’s $1.86 billion,” it said.

The major factor for reduced expenses was the huge drop in fuel prices to an average of $86.94 per barrel from $123.80 the year before. -- Businessworld

CAB to issue rules improving service to stranded airline passengers

By Paolo Montecillo

July 25, 2010

MANILA, Philippines -- The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) will soon come out with guidelines that seek to better protect the interests of customers.

CAB Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla in a recent interview said the regulator has been drafting guidelines for procedures to be followed by airlines during long flight delays.

He said the CAB would order airlines to treat their passengers better during flight delays, even if these were caused by factors beyond human control. This comes after the recent diversion of several flights to secondary airports around the country following the inability of aircraft to land at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) runway due to visibility problems.

Planes coming from both international and domestic airports, which were unable to land in Manila due to poor weather conditions, were forced to land either in Clark Freeport, Pampanga or Cebu City.

While waiting for conditions in Manila to improve, Arcilla said most airlines simply kept passengers inside their aircraft for hours on end.

“This is why we’re coming up with passenger protection guidelines for tarmac delays,” he said.

He said under the regulator’s draft rules, airlines would be required to at least provide drinking water and light snacks to their passengers in case of delays.

Under the same rules, the CAB said if a plane was stuck on a runway for more than three to four hours, the airline would be required to allow the passengers to alight the aircraft should they want to do so.

“We will let them choose if they want to deplane. But of course, there are some exceptions like if the passengers will be put in danger or allowing them to get off will cause undue delay to other flights,” Arcilla said.

The CAB will have a public hearing regarding the draft rules this week.

Another set of rules for passenger protection, Arcilla said, would cover transparency over the promotion of discounted tickets. He said the CAB issued the rules on promotional fares earlier this year, but strict implementation has not yet begun.

In the new rules, he said airlines would have to be clear that government taxes and surcharges were usually not included in the discounted prices being advertised.

“They also have to report to the CAB how many seats for the promos are available,” he said.

Failure to follow these rules would result in stiff sanctions and fines or, in extreme cases, the cancellation of an airline’s permit to operate in the country, Arcilla said.

Weather caused diverts again!

Several flights cancelled, diverted due to heavy rains

July 26, 2010

MANILA, Philippines - Several flights at the Manila Domestic Airport (MDA) were either delayed or diverted on Sunday due to heavy rains brought about by a low-pressure area in Luzon.

The MDA said that as of 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, 2 flights were cancelled, 20 were delayed, and 15 flights were diverted.

Among those diverted were flights of Seair and Zest Air from Caticlan and Kalibo in the Visayas, and Busuanga, in Mindanao were diverted to the Clark international airport in Pampanga.

Cebu Pacific cancelled its Manila-Legaspi and Legaspi-Manila. The airline also delayed flights coming from Dipolog to Cagayan, and Iloilo to Cagayan.

On the other hand, Zest Air flights from Manila to Tagbilaran, Bohol, Kalibo, Virac, Cebu and Caticlan were delayed.

Seair flights from Caticlan to Manila or DG 022 was re-routed to Clark due to the bad weather, while two Manila to Caticlan flights (DG 131 and DG 039)left after being delayed for several hours.

Philippine Airlines flight 392 from Tacloban finally landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at 5:45, while flight 168 from Dipolog touched down at 6:05 p.m.

At the NAIA Terminal 1 and 2, several international flights were also either delayed or diverted.

Cathay Pacific 906 bound for Hong Kong, was late for an hour and 25 minutes before departing at 12:30 in the afternoon.

Singapore Airlines 910 bound for Manila, was diverted to Clark airport and arrived at 5:35 p.m. Malaysian Airlines flight 704 on its way to Manila from Kuala Lumpur, was diverted to Kota Kinabalu due to bad weather.

Philippine Airlines flight 301 from Hong Kong to Manila was re-rerouted to Clark and arrived at 5:45 p.m. --ABS-CBN News

Labor clouds PAL future


July 24, 2010

Philippine Airlines, the national flag carrier, is undoubtedly the most overstaffed airline in the world.

With only 39 aircraft for domestic and international operations, it has 7,500 people in its payroll. That averages 192 employees per airplane. Worldwide, the average is 100 to 120.

As if the large number were not bad enough, PAL’s labor force is probably the most strident in the airline industry all over the world.

In 1998, PAL retrenched thousands of employees including 1,400 cabin crew personnel. They accepted the retirement pay in amounts somewhat more than what the law requires.

They signed quit claims which by any stretch of the imagination leaves PAL in peace.

The quit claim provides in very clear terms that the furloughed employee "hereby voluntarily, irrevocably, and unconditionally release and forever discharge PAL and PAL owners, partners, stockholders, predecessors, successors, assigns, agents, insurers, directors, officers, employees, representatives, subsidiaries affiliates and all persons … from any and all complaints, claims, demands, liabilities or rights…"

Unmindful of their commitments, the members of the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP) went to court asking for reinstatement.

The National Labor Relations Council ruled in favor of PAL. FASAP appealed to the Court of Appeals. The CA affirmed the ruling of the NLRC.

The case went up to the Supreme Court on appeal.

On July 22, 2008, the Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the NLRC and the CA. It found PAL guilty of illegal dismissal. PAL filed a motion for reconsideration. The motion was denied.

A second motion for reconsideration is now pending resolution in the Supreme Court.

While the case is pending resolution, a labor arbiter made the illegal conclusion that the ruling of the SC has become final. Forthwith, he issued a writ of execution ordering the NLRC sheriffs to reinstate 582 cabin crew personnel to their former positions.

The arbiter took the move in spite of the objection of PAL for NLRC to issue a writ of execution.

On July 5, 2010, the NLRC sheriffs, complying with the writ of execution, went to PAL’s ticket office in Cubao and other ticket offices, posted a sheriff’s notice of levy/sale on execution of personal property.

The sheriff also served notices of garnishment on the depositary banks of the airline.

PAL filed a motion for a restraining order with the NLRC which was granted on July 12, 2010. The TRO is valid for 20 days from date of issue or receipt by the parties.

While all these were happening PAL president Jaime Bautista announced to media that the airline was seeking foreign partners to bolster its capital stock. The plan is to increase paid capital expected to be subscribed and paid by foreign partners, with Lucio Tan who now owns about 90 per cent of the airline retaining majority of the shares.

Some leaders of the business community who requested not to be named saying they have nothing to do with the problems of PAL, nevertheless expressed alarm over what they thought is the denial by the courts of the rights of owners of enterprise to plot the future of their companies toward the path of growth.

They also said that the decision of the Supreme Court declaring PAL guilty of illegal dismissal will definitely discourage local or foreign investors from putting in money in the national flag carrier.

The employees signed a quit claim. They abandoned their right to strike, the business leaders said.

They explained that large companies such as Standard Electric and Novelty Philippines closed shop and went to China after their operations were paralyzed by a strike.

More than 3,000 jobs were lost in the two companies. They also pointed out that strident labor is one of the major reasons the country has not attracted enough local and foreign investments.

The owners of large manufacturing companies have decided to go into trading precisely to avoid labor troubles. The result, the business leaders claimed, is a slowdown in the creation of jobs.

The Supreme Court ruling states that PAL failed to substantiate its claim of actual and imminent substantial losses. The decision also states that the quit claims was clouded by fraud or mistake.

Strangely, FASAP itself is known to have admitted that the airline incurred financial losses. These losses were confirmed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the labor arbiter, the NLRC and the Court of Appeals.

PAL loses $14 million in 2009

July 24, 2010

Philippine Airlines on Friday reported a comprehensive total losses of $14.3 million for fiscal year that ended in March 2010, data filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showed.

Drastic cost-cutting measures reduced the flag carriers losses by more than 95 percent, a sharp decline from the comprehensive net loss of $297.8 million it recorded last year.

PAL said that it losses was still fueled by weak passenger demand particularly on its international operations as a result of the global financial crisis which compelled them to reduce fares to be competitive. The strategy drove revenue down to $1.36 billion from $1.60 billion in 2008.

Meanwhile, its recorded expeses was down mainly because of lower fuel prices, cost cutting strategy and one-time gains recognized during the current period. The airline's total expenses by the end of March 2010 dropped by 28 percent to $1. 35 billion.

Despite worldwide capacity cuts in 2009, there were still significant empty seats prompting them to offer promotional fares just to fill the plane and consequently exerted pressure on its yields.

PAL further said that it was continuing to look for ways to improve its financial positions. It has lined up cost-saving measures and implemented various revenue enhancement programs, such as cash generation strategies and cost control initiatives.

2 hurt as another spray plane crashes in Davao del Norte

By Frinston Lim
Philippine Daily Inquirer
July 22, 2010

TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte – Two persons were injured when another light plane used for spraying fungicides over banana plantations crashed in Panabo City, Davao del Norte early Thursday, police said.

Supt. Alexander Serrano, Panabo City police chief, told the INQUIRER in a text message, that the plane hired by banana giant Lapanday was about to take off for a spraying run when its engine lost power.

He said the pilot, Capt. Carlito Caballero, tried to make an emergency landing but the plane crashed into the house of a resident. One person inside the house was hurt, Serrano said.

He said Caballero was also slightly injured in the incident.

Banana companies in Davao del Norte regularly use planes for their operation and accidents involving aging aircraft are common.

Several crashes involving spray planes had been reported in recent months but the worst accident so far took place in 2007, when two spray planes collided in mid-air in Kapalong town.

2P to fly Cebu- Surigao

Flight starts Nov.1

July 22, 2010

Airphilippines Express is flying to Surigao by November. The Cebu-Surigao-Cebu flight begins on November 1, 2010. Meanwhile, a second daily Q400 flight for Manila will also commence operation on the same date.

It will leave Cebu for Surigao at 9:20 a.m. and arrive at 10:20 a.m. with a return flight expected at 10:40 and arrival at 11:40 a.m. The second daily Manila flight will fly in the afternoon for Surigao at 1:30 p.m. and arrive at 3:10 p.m. Its return flight to Manila is scheduled at 3:30 p.m. with arrivals at 5:10 p.m.

Airphil Express intend to double its market share with the arrival of five more airbus A320 to their fleet, with one joining in September and two others in October and November.

The merged airline, formerly Air Philippines and PAL Express, added new flights by re-introducing Cebu, and Davao yesterday July 21 in an effort to consolidate its market position.

“Cebu and Davao is vital to our development if we are to grow as a respected budget airline" says Maria Rodriguez Java, the airline's head for Marketing, Product and Media.

"We will increase the number of frequencies for Cebu and Davao later on as we are expecting more aircraft to join our fleet this year,” adds Java.

Airphil Express will fly daily from Manila to Cebu at 9 p.m. and Cebu to Manila at 10:40 p.m. An additional two flights will be opened on Oct. 1 and another one starting Oct. 28.

The airline will also start flying to Legaspi and Tagbilaran in October and Zamboanga by November. Meanwhile, new domestic flights are being planned for General Santos, Tacloban and Dipolog. Flights to Dumaguete, Pagadian, and Butuan are also being considered.

"The new routes are being evaluated right now. There are just too many unserved markets like Pagadian for example. We need to be where the people need us,” she added.

International flight from Manila to Singapore will start operating this year and Cebu to Singapore by next year. Also on the planning stages for next year are flights for Manila to Hong Kong, Seoul, and Japan, while Kalibo-Incheon is also being considered.

The airline currently operates a fleet of 2 airbus A320's, 5 Bombardier Q400' and 3 Q300's planes that flies to 24 domestic destinations from its Manila and Cebu hubs. They are currently on the fourth spot after Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Zest Airways.

With its re-branding in March and aggressive no-frills campaign, Philippine Airlines’ low-cost unit intends to at least double its market share at present 8 percent by the end of the year.

Housecleaning can be deadly

But Cusi is unperturbed

By Recto Mercene
July 20, 2010

SINCE exposing the million-peso activities of a syndicate preying on foreign students taking up flying lessons in the Philippines and subsequent scrutiny by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), death threats have been sent to Director General Alfonso Cusi of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

“Kung tatanungin mo ako kung totoo…totoo [If you ask me if it is true…it is true],” Cusi said, referring to the threats he has received since assuming the Caap post on March 3.

Asked if he is not afraid that somebody might try to kill him, Cusi said: “Matagal na tayong takot eh [We’ve been afraid for a long time].”

He did not elaborate, fearing that the issue would be blown out of proportion or he might be accused of inventing the threats.

However, Cusi said there are several fronts which he is currently fighting at the moment, such as the corruption issues at the Flight Safety Inspectorate Service, the previous Flight Safety Division of the defunct Air Transportation Office (Ato), the cancellations of certificates of some local air carriers and the exposé on bogus flying certificates and licenses issued by flying schools.

“In the history of the Ato, when did anyone revoke the permit of an airline, who canceled the registration, airworthiness certificates of aircraft?” Cusi asked.

He said in the issue of the LET 410, there were 19 of such planes that were grounded for lack of safety standards.

“Who decides that these airplanes could no longer fly?” Cusi asked, saying that had he wanted, he would have accepted bribes just to allow these aircraft to continue to fly.

Cusi said the NBI is needed to determine if some Caap personnel are involved.

“We need to know the truth. We are like this [where the Caap had been reduced to Category 2 status] because of wrongdoings by some,” he said, adding that “this incident in the Caap would not have happened if we keep on believing that we have been right all along.”

“Obviously, somebody did something wrong and what we want to do is to find out who committed the mistakes, the corruption, so that we would not be accused that we are right all the time, that we have never committed any mistake.”

“However, I did it, because the lives of the Filipinos are at stake.”

He said it is a heavy responsibility that he is willing to accept.

“Kaya may NBI para malaman ang truth. Matagal na ang problemang iyan. What is needed is the political will to correct it. Here we are trying to correct it now and I hope everybody will be with us to correct the problem. But ’yung tatamaan magagalit. Bakit nahihirapan ka...first we have to follow the process, everybody have rights and we got to follow the process and that is the system that we have. We will follow the system,” Cusi added.

S 211 down

Pilots Safe!

July 19, 2010

Clark - A Philippine Air Force (PAF) S-211 jet with tail number 024 crashed in Concepcion, Tarlac this morning.

No casualties were reported. But PAF's only Jet fleet was a total write-off . The jet were piloted by 1st lt. Jose Wilbert Martinez and trainor Maj. Wilfred Donato of the Air Defense wing's 7th Tactical Fighter Squadron .

Both safely ejected from the aircraft and were brought later to the Air Force City Hospital in Clark Pampanga for treatment.

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said the plane took off from the Clark Air Base around 8 a.m. for a training flight. When the plane did not return as scheduled, PAF sounded an alarm to search for the aircraft and the pilots.

The unscathed pilots were later found 11:45 a.m., and were subsequently brought back to Clark Air Base for medical checkup.

An order has been made grounding all S-211 pending an investigation to the cause of the crash. AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta said the aircraft suffered “mechanical problem” while on air but was in good flying conditions when it took-off at Aur Force City. The exact cause is however being determined by investigators.

The recent crash left the PAF with only six S-211s including three that are undergoing maintenance.

The Italian made Aermacchi S-211 is designed as a two-seat jet trainer aircraft powered by a Pratt and Whitney JT15D-C turbofan engine. The aircraft was later modified by the PAF as a secondary close air support units that can be armed for weapons training or light ground attack duties. A total of 25 S-211’s were purchased by the PAF in 1988, including 15 that were assembled locally by the Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation.

Cusi stays

But others wanted his post

By Recto Mercene

July 18, 2010

The head of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAA) has served notice he will stay at his post—which is not coterminous with the President who appointed him, Gloria Arroyo—because the “imperious manner” in which he was treated by a new superior officer made him rethink plans to turn in a courtesy resignation.

“Oh, kailan ka aalis [Hey, when are you leaving]?” Cusi quoted the official as saying, in complete disregard of the fact that he has a four-year term.

Cusi said he responded by telling the unnamed official that he would prepare his departure papers. But after thinking about it back in his office, he said he felt disgusted that he was being forced to leave.

“It occurred to me that the former Air Transportation Office [Ato] was changed into the Caap so that it would be beyond politics,” Cusi said.

“Now politics had reared its ugly head and the Caap, it seems, has become a battleground for political accommodations.”

Cusi was appointed to his post on March 3, 2010, after withdrawing from a congressional race in Oriental Mindoro and, by law, should be with the Caap until March 2, 2014, according to airport officials.

Cusi had earlier said he would submit a courtesy resignation, but apparently changed his mind after colleagues and Caap officials asked him to stay.

During his first 100 days in office, he sought to make a dent in the highly corrupt Flight Standard and Inspectorate Service (FSIS), formerly the Flight Safety Division of the defunct ATO.

Cusi asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into allegations of pilots licenses being sold without actually taking a difficult examination, padded flying hours to expedite getting the flight certificate and other anomalous transactions with collusion from some corrupt flying schools.

The NBI had found pilots licenses and flying certificates with forged signatures of FSIS officials.

As Caap headman, he prevented the Middle East and Australia from blacklisting Philippine carriers after assuring them it was just a matter of attaining internationally accepted audit procedures, and that all airlines in the country are safe and sound.

The Caap chief then presented their achievements to the members of the Foreign Chambers and informed his counterparts in other countries.

A visiting delegation from the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao) cited Caap’s achievements in such a short time. In September the European Union representatives will visit following two video conferences with Director General Daniel Calleja of the EU’s Air Safety Committee.

Cusi was deemed instrumental in the acquisition of the Instrument Landing System (ILS) that should have been installed on May 29 before the controversial navigational aid, VOR (VHF omnidirectional range) went out of commission on June 19.

However, European airspace was closed to air traffic from April until May during the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano, delaying the airlift of the ILS, which eventually arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport last week.

Cusi’s sudden departure from the Manila International Airport Authority in March, to be named Caap headman, also temporarily disrupted the installation of the ILS after a new airport manager took his place.

Subic goes back to life

As ACI Opens Hub

July 17, 2010

Subic - Charter company Aviation Concepts Inc. (ACI) is building a hub in Subic airport as they set to take over airport hangars abandoned by courier giant Federal Express that left the Philippines in February 2009.

The Guam-based company through Aviation Concepts Holdings, an American-Canadian joint venture, is investing US$1.1-million to rehabilitate facilities at the SBIA and start operations by mid-September, said Anthony Decostes, the firm’s senior vice-president.

Aviation Concepts is famous for providing private jet charters to Senatorial and Presidential candidates in the last election. They are also involved in aircraft sales and acquisition, business aviation consulting and aircraft management services to companies and individuals.

ACI operates in Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong and Manila and have an FAA approval to fly almost everywhere, including all oceans and polar areas. It started operations in 1996 and open Manila office in 2007.

The charter company operates a fleet of Westwind II, Falcon 50/900, Gulfstream IV/V/550, Challenger 604, Global Express and Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) which has been audited for safety by ARG/US.

“Our concept here is to basically copy what is in Guam, bring it here and expand it,” said Decostes, who also serves as AC’s country director in the Philippines.

ACI, he said, began looking at the Philippines when their Guam operations “grew exponentially, but faced problems with actual, physical growth.”

In 2007, in partnership with Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc., ACI opened the first aircraft scheduling center for business aircraft in Makati. But its growing clientele means it has to move somewhere else outside of Metro Manila and have keep its sight at Subic Bay for a bigger operations program.

“Lucky for us the SBIA was vacated by FedEx. Everything seems prepared for us — world-class aviation facilities, minimal air traffic, availability of trained workforce. Everything we need is right here in Subic,” Decostes said.

Decostes said they are committed to offer a full range of aviation services and facilities to clients. These include ground handling, maintenance repair and overhaul, FBO facility with VIP crew lounge and amenities, air ambulance, aircraft scheduling and record keeping, aircraft detailing, hangarage and technical stop services.

Omni cleared

First to be certified as compliant school

July 13, 2010

Clark based Omni Aviation Corporation becomes the first flying school in the country to be certified as ICAO complaint after the Civil aviation Authority initiated a crackdown on aviation schools across the country with questionable student records.

Omni was the first one to be investigated unannounced by a seven-man team, led by a foreign Icao consultant. Omni boast a fleet of 22 airplanes consisting of 16 Cessna 152s, five Cessna 172s and one twin engine Piper Seneca based in its Subic branch.

Capt. Ben Hur Gomez of Omni Aviation Corp. said he fully supports this move by CAAP, as this would eliminate unscrupulous flying schools in the country, which destroy the reputation of the Philippines as producer of best pilots in the world. Captain Gomez has been with Philippine Airlines for 38 years and capped his career as vice president for safety and security.

“We are now 100-percent compliant of all the requirements.” Gomez said.

“We have a policy of no cheating. Flight-time padding is strictly prohibited, and solo flight time means the student is alone in the aircraft,” he adds.

The investigation is being conducted with the support of the National Bureau of investigation (NBI) which discovered last month that some flying schools certify a pilot’s license course for a consideration of $30,000 to $50,000. Some flying schools were found to have padded students flying hours by logging flights that were not flown.

ILS finally!

July 12, 2010

The new Cat III 420 Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) and a Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) intended for runway 06 and 24 of Manila International Airport finally arrived Sunday night after two months of delay.

The new ILS was ferried on an Emirates Airlines flight from France and costs $2.4 million (US) from Thales ATM, a French based aerospace company.

The instrument should have been installed last May 29 to replace one that went out of commission a year ago but because of the closure of European Airspace there were delays on cargo shipment from the continent.

Had they been installed on time, they could have prevented the repeated closure of Manila airport due to bad weather. The new instrument will replace the old ILS at runway 06 and 24 and they are scheduled to be up and running by the middle of August.

“The ILS was late in coming because the European airspace was closed for weeks during the eruption of Iceland volcano, cutting off all European flights to Manila,” Manila International Airport Authority chief Melvin Matibag had explained prior to his replacement on July 9.

Matibag was replaced by retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Jose Angel Honrado, who took over the post Friday.

Thales Philippines, a local subsidiary, said that it would take at least four weeks for the contractor to install and calibrate the ILS.

"They would be installed by Integrated Energy Systems & Resources, Inc., in cooperation with Thales ATM Project Engineers" Thales statement said.

Asia- Pacific countries utilizing Thales equipment include: Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Hong Kong SAR, Indonesia, Laos, Macau SAR, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, People’s Republic of China, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

VOR fixed, But no ILS yet

By Recto Mercene
July 8, 2010

Manila - THE crucial navigational aid VOR (VHF Omnidirectional range) was put back on the air at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, 17 days after it conked out due to wear and tear.

The announcement was broadcast worldwide to all major airports via the Notice-to-airmen (Notam) by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap).

“The VOR of the airport navigational facilities is now serviceable,” said Caap Director General Alfonso Cusi at a press conference.

He said the Navaid was flight-tested from 7 to 9 a.m. by a Beechcraft “King Air” B200, flying around the airport above the VOR at 2,000 feet, checking every 10 degrees the accuracy of the signal.

Capt. Gilbert Bautista, a veteran pilot of the King Air Beechcraft, did the flight-checking, assisted by five other technical experts, Cusi said.

With the VOR’s restoration, airplanes on instrument flight would be able to come near and make an attempt to land on runway 24 at a minimum altitude of 500 feet and visibility at 3 to 4 kilometers before seeing the runway.

If using runway 06, a pilot could fly as low as 400 feet and as near the runway as 3 to 4 km to be able to see the runway; otherwise, the pilot aborts his landing and makes another try.

Cusi said that since the VOR was switched on, 75 domestic and international flights were able to land safely, from 11 a.m. until 1:45 p.m.

The VOR conked out after 14 years of continuous service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It has a shelf life of 15 years. That, coupled with the poor to zero visibility alternately caused by thunderstorms and a haze, had caused some flights to be delayed, canceled or diverted to Clark airport.

After weeks of on-off operations, with the equipment undergoing repairs with parts cannibalized from the Subic VOR, a team of European experts flew into Manila last week, bringing with them the parts purchased in Germany.

Five European engineers were invited by the Caap to look into the VOR problem, and also to replace the defective parts.

Cusi said that even if the VOR malfunctions again, the Caap has in place the Required Area Navigation (RNAV) system, a satellite-based means of navigating and landing that is more accurate than the VOR.

He said the RNAV’s activation had already been broadcast worldwide via the Notam, and that local air carriers have been advised to adjust the compatible equipment aboard their planes to be able to carry out navigation and landing procedures safely.

According to Cusi, the Caap is requesting for a new VOR replacement as soon as possible so that in case of a breakdown, there would be more than one navigational aid that could back up the RNAV.

He said the instrument landing system (ILS) would be installed and ready for use by end-July.

At the same time, Cusi said Caap will bill the Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) for the expenses incurred in flight checking, calibrating and repairing the VOR.

“We have to bill the Miaa since the Caap is already a government-owned and -controlled corporation,” he added, saying that one of the functions of the new aviation body is to raise revenues to fund its operations, secure more money to pay its technical experts and thousands of employees.

Cusi ordered the chief of the Air Traffic Service and the Air Navigational Service to activate all the other RNAVs in the Philippines located in Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Bacolod, Clark and Subic.

Flying Schools fly by night

The Real Score

Justify Full
By Recto Mercene

July 7, 2010
Part 1
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CAAP Starts Cleansing: Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines chief Alfonso Cusi (right) signs pilot’s licenses. Cusi has called in the National Bureau of Investigation to ferret out the syndicates issuing bogus examination results and pilots certificates in exchange for hefty bribes. Looking on is Capt. Raul Trinidad, technical assistant and Caap lead investigator into the manufactured documents.
THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has found strong evidence of collusion between flying-school authorities and some officials of the former Air Transportation Office (ATO) who issued fraudulent pilots licenses and fabricated certificates signed with the forged signatures of former Air Transportation assistant secretaries without actually taking the written examinations.

Some examinees may have taken only a few of the five test subjects but were eventually made to appear that they hurdled all the tests, then applied or received commercial pilot certificates from the school where they enrolled.

To expedite the long hours of flying needed to qualify before taking the examinations, some student pilots, with the tacit approval of their schools, padded their flying hours by logging flights that were not actually flown.

These were among the findings that the NBI reported to Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) Director General Alfonso Cusi.

Cusi called in the NBI after he was informed, shortly after assuming office in March that a syndicate had been operating within the aviation body for decades, dispensing licenses and certificates in exchange for hefty bribes.

Cusi has appointed Capt. Raul Trinidad, a former Philippine Airlines Boeing 747 captain, as lead investigator, coordinating closely with the NBI to flush out the members of the syndicates and hale them to court.

Passing the airmen’s examination and getting certified as a private pilot is a highly expensive and time-consuming process, since airmen’s examinations are difficult and an aspiring student pilot needs to pass different examinations like a lawyer wanting to hurdle the bar or a physician taking the board examinations, said Trinidad.

Only when one had successfully hurdled all the examinations can a pilot be certified either as a student, private or commercial pilots.

However, the NBI has found that one foreign student passed the eight subjects on the same day and got an 80-percentage-point grade on each subject taken.

Not content with that, the foreign student allegedly took the written examination to get a rating to fly a twin-engine airplane and an additional rating for a Cessna 172 four-seater trainer.

“This guy is a genius,” says Trinidad, who says that, usually, a student takes the test one subject per week or, at most, two subjects a week if he is really a good student.

The student pilot in question was also found to have received his flying certificate from private pilot to commercial pilot within one month.

The NBI and the Caap have found that the certificates given to some students bore the signature of the former ATO chief, Daniel Dimagiba. However, the latter denied that it was his signature that was on the document and submitted specimens of his signature to the NBI for comparison.

The NBI also impounded the typewriters at the Caap’s examination board’s office to trace the source of the bogus certificates.

Trinidad added that the NBI has hired forensic experts on signature identification to find out who forged the bogus documents issued to the pilots, many of whom are foreigners.

Trinidad says the criminal syndicates usually make arrangement with some flying schools to agree on a package deal where the examination results and certificates would be delivered for a fee of between $30,000 and $50,000, depending on the student’s degree of achievement.

From student pilot, which usually takes only 25 hours of flying, the pilot-trainee conducts more flights and take another set of examination to be certified as a “Private Pilot.”

Thereafter, through the years of continuous flying and examinations, he becomes a “Commercial Pilot,” an “Instrument-Rated Pilot,” an “Air Transport-Rated Pilot,” which eventually qualifies him to become an airline pilot, although starting as a copilot.

A similar flying school at Clark Field in Pampanga charges P2 million, guaranteeing that the applicant would graduate within two years and be qualified as an Airbus 320 pilot, Trinidad said.

Most of the victims are Indian students.

There are some of them—willing and unwilling victims—from India, who said they enrolled in the Philippines because of the proficiency of Filipinos in English, aside from the reasonable tuition.

Another Indian student, who will remain anonymous, find out to his surprise that he has a bogus certificate when he applied to become a commercial pilot.

Trinidad says the student went to seek the help of the Indian Embassy, who coordinated with the Caap to try to clear the issue.

That was when Cusi discovered the anomalous procedures at the Caap licensing section, forcing him to seek NBI help.

“I want to bring back the integrity of our flying licenses,” Cusi said.

Flying Schools Probed
By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines on Tuesday said it was investigating at least 63 flying schools in the country after the agency confirmed reports of fake pilot licenses and leakages of flight examination answers given to aviation students.

In a press conference, CAAP consultant and head investigator Raul Trinidad said several Filipino and foreign aviation students were able to obtain “packages” in return for US$30,000 to US$40,000 (P1.4 million to P1.86 million) cash. They are given correct answers to a series of tests they have to take as part of their certification and a genuine license to show that they passed.

Trinidad said three CAAP teams, with the help of National Bureau of Investigation agents, have been undertaking a nationwide probe for the past three weeks. At least nine CAAP personnel from the licensing division and examination board of the CAAP have been asked to submit affidavits to explain their alleged involvement in the irregularities.

The CAAP official showed reporters one “fake” certificate indicating a foreign student taking five different examinations for just one day. The certificate showed that the examinee scored 80 percent in each subject, namely, civil air regulations, theory of flight, meteorology, emergency procedure and navigation.

“One exam is usually taken for one whole day but in this certificate the student took all five exams in one day, which is not possible. There are really irregularities,” Trinidad said.

The sample that he showed has a control number that is not found in the records of the CAAP examination board, he added.

He said there were also cases wherein certificates for commercial pilot, training aircraft, twin engine and airmen exams turned out to be fake. The performance and training certificates were submitted to the CAAP so that it could issue a corresponding pilot’s license.

Trinidad said licenses were indeed issued despite fake certificates that were submitted, which only means students who did not undergo a real skills testing may now be flying aircraft.

Trinidad said 63 flying schools, which he declined to identify, will be undergoing a “thorough inspection.” He also declined to identify the foreign students issued fake licenses or to say if they were already flying aircraft.

“If the schools aren’t compliant, it will be investigated and eventually be suspended. If it’s proven that it’s just fly-by-night flying schools, they will be closed down,” Trinidad said.

He also called on the flying school graduates to come to the agency and expose the school officials responsible.

“We won’t go after them (the students). We’re here to help them,” he said, adding that the investigation was in compliance with the requirements set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

He said the fake licenses and exam leakages were one of the factors behind ICAO’s negative assessment of the Philippine aviation industry. This had led to industry’s downgrading by the United States Federal Aviation Administration in 2008 and blacklisting by the European Aviation Safety Agency this year.

Probe hopes to bring back lost prestige
By Recto Mercene
Part 2

The number of foreign students enrolled in local flying schools has gone down over the years owing to a perceived decline in the worth of Philippine-issued pilots’ licenses in the eyes of the international community.

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) chief Alfonso Cusi cites one cost of such decline: thousands of these foreign students bring in plenty of hard currencies into the country’s coffers, preferring to enroll here because it is cheaper to graduate in the Philippines compared with other countries.

He said foreign students also find the English-speaking community of Filipinos easy to deal with, aside from their hospitality and friendly nature.

Foreign students who have gained their wings in the Philippines include Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Nepalese, Pakistani, Sudanese, Saudi Arabian, Malaysian, Korean, Jordanian and Canadian pilots.

India alone has sent to various countries, including the Philippines, about 20,000 students to learn how to fly in anticipation of the growth of the subcontinent’s commercial airline industry, according to Ronie Briones, a senior aviation safety officer of the CAAP.

He said many foreigners also choose the Philippines over other countries because Manila readily offers student visas or special student permits to those wanting to get training that includes ground schooling, supervised flying and simulators.

The United States has many flying schools, but foreign students are usually discouraged by the expensive tuition that schools there charge.

Meanwhile, Cusi said the ongoing investigation into the reported issuance of fake licenses and certificates is aimed at getting back the prestige that once made Philippine flying schools famous and prestigious.

 Even as the investigation is going on, Cusi said the Caap issues about 1,000 licenses a month to would-be captains of commercial airlines.

He added that since the investigation started three weeks ago, the aviation body has temporarily stopped conducting licensing examinations, but had since resumed this after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) entered the picture.

He said that with NBI’s help, the Caap would be able to identify the flying schools issuing bogus licenses and certificates, including some corrupt insiders.

Some flying schools and foreign students are cooperating in the investigation.

“These fake licenses and certificates are very serious matters that undermine the credibility and integrity of Philippine flying schools, and we would like to see this investigation to lead to some convictions,” Cusi told a press conference.

He added that the Caap had seen to it that no foreign students linked with any terrorist organization gets enrolled in the Philippines. Student visas are subject to scrutiny by the Immigration bureau, in coordination with foreign embassies.

One of the best of these schools used to be that run by Philippine Airlines (PAL), where many of the captains who used to command some Asian airlines were graduates, according to Capt. Raul Trinidad, a senior adviser to Cusi.

There is a mad rush to get a pilot’s license because of the projected need for about 20,000 pilots worldwide within the next 10 to 15 years due to the expanding air-travel business and the unstoppable movement of people around the globe, according to Lino Zapanta, president of Seair and professor at the University of the Philippines.

Zapanta said airlines worldwide are preparing to buy thousands of airplanes in the next 10 years because of the expected rise in the number of air travelers all over the globe.

Aquino may do away with presidential jet

July 6, 2010

by Joyce Pangco Pañares

After ditching the use of sirens and blinkers, President Benigno Aquino III is now mulling over taking commercial flights instead of using the 30-year old Fokker F-28 for his domestic travels.

Aquino, after addressing the 63rd anniversary of the Philippine Air Force at the Villamor Air Base, said he was very conscious of the scant air assets of the military and the need to upgrade and modernize equipment.

“I think we have all seen the assets of the Philippine Air Force on display. One of them is the F-28, the presidential aircraft that is at least 30 years old,” he said in an ambush interview.

“I feel it is better for us to take commercial flights instead,” Mr. Aquino said.

When asked if he is prepared for the inconvenience that he and his delegation might have to bear when flying commercial, the President said: My comfort will be the last priority.

His predecessor, Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, earlier wanted to buy a fixed-wing executive jet worth P1.2 billion to replace the old Fokker but junked the bid call after receiving much flak for the planned procurement.

Mr. Aquino proved yesterday that proper time management would allow him to be on time for his engagements even without the use of blaring sirens.

After being late for almost an hour for the Armed Forces’ turnover rites Friday, he beat the morning traffic yesterday from his family’s residence at Times St. in Quezon City to Malacanang to lead the flag-raising ceremony at the Kalayaan Hall at 8 a.m. and was also 15 minutes early for the Air Force event.

According to Presidential Security Group commander Col. Ramon Dizon, the sirens and blinkers of the presidential convoy will only be used during emergencies or life threatening situations.

“We have already made security adjustments to follow the President’s order not to use sirens or blinkers, but we did not remove them in case the need to use them arises,” Dizon said in a separate interview.

Mr. Aquino said he has yet to transfer to the one-room Bahay Pangarap within the PSG compound as construction of new rooms for his close-in security as well as better flood control systems have yet to be completed.

“When Pasig River overflows, Bahay Pangarap becomes flooded. They’re completing the necessary construction, and they told me it will take about a month to finish,” he said.

Mr. Aquino ordered Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin to review the national defense policies of the government to strike a balance between the military’s budgetary constraints and the need to procure new equipment or upgrade old ones.

Flight Diverts as Manila closes Again

Its the ILS idiots!

July 3, 2010

Manila International Airport was again closed this morning delaying the arrival of 36 international and domestic flights bound for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Flights were diverted to airports in Clark, Iloilo and Cebu.

At least 22 flights, ten of them international and 18 from domestic points, were diverted to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Pampanga. Some of the flights came as far as Europe and the Middle East, two from Taipie, one from Riyadh, two from Singapore and one from Guam.

Three Philippine Airlines flights were also diverted to land in Cebu. They were flights from Zamboanga, Tacloban and Puerto Princesa. The first diverted flight was PR 124 from Zamboanga City with 134 adult and one infant passengers, which arrived at Mactan at 9:07 a.m. The second diverted flight, PR 192 from Tacloban City with 124 adults and one infant arrived at 11:06 a.m. The third diverted flight, PR 196 from Puerto Princesa City with 214 adults and four infants arrived at 12:06 p.m. Meanwhile, another PAL flight from Cagayan de Oro was forced to land at Iloilo airport.

Four international flights, including two from Cathay Pacific, opted to just fly in circles above the Manila airspace for two hours until it was permitted to land by noontime.

Cathay Pacific flight CX907 which was supposed to arrive at 9:55 a.m. flew in circles above Metro Manila while CX901 was scheduled to arrive at 11:15 a.m. circled the air for 55 minutes before finally being able to land.

Aseana flight OZ701 from Seoul, South Korea, and EVA Air 271 from Taipei also opted to fly in circles and were able to land after one hour of waiting up in the air.

Airport officials said the cause of the closure is poor visibility in Metro Manila due to haze.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) clarified that the diverted flights had nothing to do with the navigational aid that broke down last month.

Airport spokesmand Lito Casaul, technical assistant of CAAP, disclosed that haze was abnormal this morning as it was thicker dropping visibility at less than a kilometer making runway approach to runway 24 more difficult.

"Almost zero ang visibility" Casaul said.

Philippine Aviation regulations prohibit aircraft from landing at an airport when visibility is less than 4 kilometers.

But Casaul never said about the ILS (instrument Landing System), a navigational equipment used for night landing and zero visibility landing, whether its working or not.

Former MIAA Manager Melvin Matibag disclosed last month that one of the airports ILS facility, particularly the ILS for runway 24 is not working. A new transmitter module for the ILS is set to arrive in August to replace the old one which has been out of service since last year.

Some of the diverted flights were:

11 Philippine Airlines
4 Cebu Pacific
1 Royal Brunei Airlines
1 Qatar Airways
1 Gulf Air
2 Air Philippines
4 Zest Airlines
1 KLM Airlines
1 Seair
2 China Airlines
1 Air Micronesia

Airport operations returned back to normal as early as 12 noon. Casaul added that despite the diversion, no flight were reported to have been canceled by airlines inspite of weather setbacks. However, by 5 p.m. 15 flights were reported to be cancelled while 24 others were delayed due to the domino effect

CAAP said that airport closure is primarily aimed at passenger safety and that airport authorities will just have to wait for the weather to improve.